A service to commemorate cyclists killed in World War One will be held this weekend at Meriden, in the centre of England and the site of a memorial for cyclists killed in conflict.
The service on Sunday 18 May has been organised by cycling charity the CTC, which has also organised a series of group rides from 20 miles to 100 miles on Saturday, and a special showing of Alan Bennett’s 1972 TV play, A Day Out. The play features a Halifax cycling club on a ride out to Bolton Abbey in 1911, three years before their lives would change after the outbreak of war.
A teenage reconnaissance cyclist, John Parr is believed to have been the first British and Commonwealth soldier to be killed in the conflict, on 21 August 1914, three weeks after war was declared. He was scouting for German positions in Belgium.
And in the aftermath of the World War One, the CTC launched a fundraising project to have the memorial in Meriden created. It was unveiled in 1921 and 20,000 cyclists turned out to mark the occasion.
John Bennett, CTC’s event organiser said: “This memorial dedicated to cyclists who fought and died in the war really is unique – no other sport commemorates WWI in a similar way.
“We’re hoping to have a good turn out on the day, although I’m sure we won’t quite get the numbers that came to the 1921 inauguration; 20,000 cyclists were estimated to have turned out that summer evening, as cyclists had come from all over the country, many having cycled with their clubs through the night to be there to honour friends and club members, who had served and died in the war.”
The Bishop of Warwck, John Stoyan, will also unveil a plaque in Meriden for cyclists killed in action since 1945.
The CTC organised rides start at 8am on Saturday and the centennial memorial service will start at 11am on Sunday. Meriden Village Hall will open for tea and cakes from noon after the service.
For more information and to sign up to the rides, visit www.ctc-heartofengland.org.uk/.